10 Best Data Capture Methods and Strategies in 2021

In today’s world, data capture has become a key priority for businesses across the globe. 

But why is this? 

Well, for the most part, this is because: 

  • We live in an age where information is power
  • Data helps businesses to better target their audience 
  • Data capture is important for generating sales leads 
  • This information is useful for segmenting your audience through their demographics
  • Data enables businesses to spot, monitor and follow the latest market trends 
  • It helps with decision making 
  • Finally, data is used to gather feedback, improve goods or services and resolve issues 

But how do you know what data to collect and what are the most efficient data capture methods? 

Well, that’s what we’re here to tell you. 

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at the various data capture methods out there, as well as ways you can make the most of your strategy. 

Read on to find out more.  

The best data capture methods

From manual to automated, there are several popular ways that business capture data. So we’re going to kick off by looking at these 10 methods below: 

1. Capturing data manually 

Let’s first touch on manual data capture methods because though more uncommon, some businesses do still rely on this for certain tasks. 

In a nutshell, this is where data is entered manually by an employee through the use of the keyboard, mouse, tablets and other touch screens. 

Often this means entering data into programs such as Excel or word processing documents. 

This can be a very labour-intensive and time-consuming task, which is why businesses are increasingly automating these processes. 

That being said, this method is not totally redundant yet, and some businesses do still capture data in this way.

2. Using automated systems 

As we said above, more and more businesses are choosing to automate data capture, extraction and processing. This is because it is generally a more efficient and cost-effective way to carry out those tasks. 

Automated data capture methods rely on computerised technologies to extract the data. Technologies are increasingly evolving to make this process even easier and intelligent tools make it possible to capture even the most unstructured data. 

Automated data capture methods include the use of lots of different technologies. These are:

3. Intelligent character recognition (ICR)

From entire forms to signatures, intelligent character recognition (ICR) technologies are used to recognise handwriting data and capture this. It is then turned into usable and editable data. 

For example, handwriting from image files and scanned documents. 

Unfortunately, ICR is less accurate than some of the other technologies we’re going to look at, but new tools are evolving every day. This means that they are becoming increasingly accurate and intelligent. 

4. Optical character recognition (OCR)

Optical character recognition (OCR) technologies are used to convert different types of machine-printed documents, such as  image files, PDF files or scanned documents. 

These are turned into searchable and editable data that can be accessed and utilised through the computer. 

5. Optical mark reading (OMR)

Optical mark reading (OMR) is used to capture data that has been marked by humans. For example, checked boxes on forms or surveys. 

This means that OMR tools can differentiate between marked and unmarked boxes and pull the relevant data from this. 

6. Magnetic ink character recognition (MICR)

Magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) is a very specific data capture method. It involves the recognition of specially formatted characters that have been printed by a machine in magnetic ink. 

The most recognisable way this is used is for the processing of cheques. In fact, this type of data capture technology is most commonly found in the banking industry.

7. Magnetic stripe cards

Magnetic stripe cards store data through magnetic properties. That is why these cards possess stripes of iron-based magnetic materials.

These are used to store numbers electronically, which, when swiped, transfer data automatically. We understand this most commonly to be used for credit cards and identity cards. 

8. Smart cards 

Similarly, smart cards rely on embedded integrated circuits that retain data that is activated during a contactless interaction with the relevant device. These can hold more information than magnetic stripe cards. 

These are often used for holding data related to personal identification, authentication, finances, biometrics and more.

9. Web data capture

Data capture from the web is one of the most common and recognisable methods. This involves the gathering of data from data capture forms through the internet.

These are found on relevant landing pages and used for things like generating sales leads and building email marketing lists.  

10. Voice recognition 

The final data capture method on our list is voice recognition. This is the process of converting speech into text through voice recognition tools.

This requires dictation systems, small controlling systems and word-processing data entry. This can also be in the form of simple speech or a set of commands. For example, smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa can collect data based on voice commands.

Ways to make the most of your data capture strategy

Now we’ve looked at the different data capture methods you could use, it’s time to look at how you can make the most of these strategies.

These tips and techniques will differ depending on what data capture methods you use. But these can be extremely helpful for getting the most from your data capture strategy and using the results to help drive your business forward. 

The best ways to make the most of your strategy include:  

Identifying your data needs and aligning these with your business goals 

In order to truly make the most of your strategy, you need to think beyond simply capturing data. 

You first need to decide: 

  • What information you need
  • How it will be used in your business
  • How it will contribute to achieving your overall goals 

So, for example, is your main aim to generate sales leads? Or do you want to build an email marketing list? Or perhaps you’re hoping to collect data to give you insights into the current market? 

Understanding the unique needs of your business will help you to find the most effective data capture method. 

Decide which data capture method is right for you 

Next, using our list of 10 data capture methods, you can decide which method is best for meeting your needs. 

Remember to take your time and do your research before settling on a method. After all, you don’t want to invest time and money into data capture techniques that end up not being suitable for the job. 

Once you’ve chosen the appropriate method, you can start examining the different tools and technologies you need to make data capture possible.

Consider multiple solutions 

It’s worth noting that you don’t just have to stick to one data capture method. You could implement several to help you out with different business functions and tasks. 

For example, you might want to use an online data capture form to generate sales leads or help your marketing efforts. You could also then implement voice recognition data capture on your phone lines to help employees collect data during customer service calls. 

Providing you have the budget and the need, you can implement as many different data capture methods as you require. This can really help to maximise your strategy.

Understand the ways unstructured data is presented

One of the key challenges in data capture is understanding all the different ways unstructured data is presented and how to tackle this. 

You need to get this right to reduce mistakes and ensure you’re getting the most from your chosen data capture method. 

For example, different countries have different conventions. In the US, they write their dates differently from those in the UK. 

As such,  you need to make sure your data capture method is designed to accommodate and translate these variants. 

Often there are tools out there that can make this much easier, but it’s important to think about this early on in your strategy. Consider who you’ll be collecting data from and where they might be located. 

This will help you to better identify and get intelligent systems in place to tackle unstructured data.

Get an effective security system in place 

The increase in capturing and storing data online has also unfortunately led to an increase in cybercrime. This means people have become more concerned about parting with their information. 

It also means that more data protection laws have come into place to keep people’s information safe.

For this reason, you need to make sure that the data is collected in a reliable and secure way. It’s also important that you have data security software in place. 

But why is this important for your data capture strategy? Well, firstly, it ensures that you’re complying with laws such as General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). 

But more than this, it helps customers, clients, visitors, etc. to feel like their data is in good hands. This can build your reputation as a company and make them more likely to share their information with you. This, in turn, can help to increase conversions. 

Perfect your data capture forms 

If you’ve decided that an online form is the best data capture method for you, then you need to make sure it does the job. There are several key components you need to consider to perfect your forms and boost conversions. These are: 


This means positioning your form somewhere people will see it – typically above the fold or in a pop-up. 

The positioning of your data capture form is a key factor to the success of your strategy. Get this wrong, and your efforts could go to waste.  


Once you’ve got the positioning of your form right, you need to make sure that it grabs their attention. 

You only have a matter of seconds to do this, therefore you need your sign up form to be attractive, clearly visible and attention-grabbing. 

This means using bold writing and a captivating headline. It also means using on-brand colour schemes and perhaps even relevant images where appropriate. 

This is particularly true if you’re incentivising visitors. Make sure they can quickly see what you’re offering in exchange for their details. 


Shorter forms tend to generate more leads because people don’t want to deal with a lengthy process. Plus, people are more reluctant to share with companies they’ve only just discovered, so you need to minimise friction and make it easy for them to do so. 

That being said, longer forms can generate more quality leads. So you need to make sure you get the balance right! 

Often between three to five fields is enough, gathering data such as name, email address, phone number, etc. Armed with this information, you can gather more data from them at a later stage. This stops users from feeling bombarded and pressured to share too much at once. 

Incentivise people to share their data 

Whether you’ve got a data capture form, you’re speaking to individuals on the phone or you’re using any other type of data capture method, it can really help to incentivise people to share their information with you. 

Some examples of incentives you could offer include: 

  • A discount on your goods or services 
  • A free gift or free trial 
  • Free postage on their next order 
  • Free downloadable content such as white papers, ‘how to’ guides or checklists 
  • Free early access to goods or services 

Incentivising data can help to increase conversions and generate sales leads. It also helps to forge good relationships between you and the user. For example, if you offer free shipping in exchange for data, they will be more inclined to make a purchase with you. 

Not only this, but now you have their data, you can send them targeted email content to continue strengthening your relationship. This could lead to a loyal customer who keeps coming back to your business.

Summary of the best data capture methods

In this guide, we’ve touched on the importance of finding the data capture method that best suits your needs and your business goals. 

Above, we’ve outlined 10 data capture methods that you can choose from. These can help you to make an informed decision about what data you need and the tools you’d need to gather this. 

Once you have selected your method, you should use our tips above to help you make the most of your data capture strategy. 

But if you’d like to know more about data capture methods, tools and techniques, you can also check out some of our related guides below. 

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